China Blue
Poem by Steffen Horstmann   •   Photo by Mitch Miller

Children pick tea leaves,
Strip shrunken tendrils from the dark humus.
The Sungari's waters mirror their labor,
Flow inland from its mouth.
Sunlight filters the air,
Thermals recline into dust.
Whatever is alive
This slow darkening becomes,
Whatever moves cannot elude
Its silent bearing: shadow of the lynx,
Shadow of the musk-deer.
The moon's corona seizes the dark,
Shades phlox with indigo.  It veils
The wintergreen's scarlet fruit.
The Sungari keeps its dark schedule
& spiders weave death robes like silk
Spinning from cocoons.
The moon's blue falls like a great silence
Over fields of camphor & bamboo,
Over the sylva of ginkgo trees
& tung trees,
Into the dark decline the Sungari tends.

* The Sungari is a river in China.
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